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SMC SOCCER:Belles aim for MIAA title

Chris Khorey | Thursday, August 18, 2005

The 2004 St. Mary’s soccer season was a tale of home and road. The Belles posted a remarkable 7-1 home record, including a 2-0 upset of MIAA champion Hope, while finishing disappointing 3-5-1 in road contests, including a late season 5 game losing streak. Still, a 10-6-1 record and five returning starters has second year coach Caryn Mackenzie optimistic for the coming campaign. The Belles return, among others, 2004 leading goal scorer Ashley Hinton and goalkeeper Laura Heline. “A few bounces the other way and we could have been maybe 14-2-1,” Mackenzie said of last year’s season, in which the Belles posted an incredible +29 goal differential and lost the six games by a combined 9 goals.Mackenzie herself is another reason for optimism headed into this season. After last year’s senior class saw coaches leave after each of their first three seasons, Mackenzie is back for her second campaign. “The continuity of me being there for a second year will help,” Mackenzie said. “Last year I was the fourth coach in four years. It’s my second year in. They’re used to me, and I’m used to them.”Heline’s 76 saves and 1.24 goals against average keyed a 2004 Belles defense that allowed a league-low 25 goals in 2004. She was also chosen all MIAA honorable mention. Mackenzie expects more of the same in 2005.”We’re looking forward to a great year from Laura,” Mackenzie said of her keeper. “She’s steady, she’s a leader in the back, and she takes charge. The team feels very confident with her in net.”To do that, however, they will have to overcome the loss of several starters, including first team all MIAA selections midfielder Jen Concannan and defender Katie Taylor. Concannan’s eleven goals last season were second only to Hinton’s twelve, and Taylor was considered one of the top defenders in the conference last year.Nevertheless, Mackenzie is confident the younger players will fill in admirably.”We have a great nucleus coming back and a lot of players ready to step up and take the place of the seniors,” she said.Returning defensive starters Carrie Orr and Shannon Culbertson will try to pick up the slack in Taylor’s absence. Orr is a specialist at moving forward and netted four goals last season. Senior Maura Schoen and sophomores Amy Schiedler, Sarah DuBree and Justine Higgins will compete for the other defensive spots. While the four have significant game experience over the course of their careers, only Schiedler has ever started a game.Midfield will be a strength for the Belles, with returnees Hinton and Carolyn Logan anchoring the unit. Logan placed third on the team with seven goals last season and may also play forward, where she saw significant time in 2004.Schoen and Higgins also have midfield experience and may get playing time there.Hinton, whose twelve goals led the team last season, will be counted upon for scoring again this year.”Ashley is without question a great player,” Mackenzie said. “She’s really a talented player. She’ll definitely be running the show in the middle.”Carolyn Courtney returns up front for the Belles, after starting 15 of 17 games last season and recording a goal and two assists. Junior Cat McMillan, who scored four goals in 14 appearances off the bench last season, should also see time as a forward.The low number of goals from the forwards is troubling to Mackenzie, but she expects production up front to increase this season as players look to pick up the scoring slack created by the departure of Concannan.”We did seem to have trouble finding the back of the net with our frontrunners last year, but I expect that will change this year,” Mackenzie said. “Losing Jen Concannan in the middle is unfortunate, but it may create more opportunities and give more responsibility to the forwards.”MIAA competition will be stiff this season. Defending champion Hope returns two first-team all-conferences players in midfielder Rachel Sauerman and keeper Holly Nestle. Calvin, who finished second last season, and forwards Jill Caple and Sara Weesie, who were both selected first team all conference and helped the Knights score a league-best 58 goals in 2004.